Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor have chemistry to spare in Doug Liman’s unexpectedly charming quarantine-themed romance.
Now in 2021, the pandemic rages on, and most of us find ourselves stuck in lockdowns with no end in sight. We’ve dealt with glitchy video calls, adventures in cohabitation, and are stuck with the isolation blues. Here to steal our attention away from the mess is Locked Down, a diverting heist/romance film from Doug Liman, starring Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Locked Down follows couple Linda (Hathaway) and Paxton (Ejiofor) stuck in quarantine in London. Paxton, a delivery driver, has been furloughed and can’t find a purpose to his existence. Linda, a CEO for a high-end retail company, is working remotely and hating it. Once a wild and daring pair, the couple struggle with cohabitation, agreeing they’ll go their separate ways once the London lockdown is lifted. However, an opportunity comes their way that just might bring them back together – the chance to steal a rare diamond from Harrods.
Hathaway and Ejiofor are an exciting pairing as a couple on the brink. Hathaway captures the exasperation of a woman trapped in a stifling work situation, down to her work-from-home wardrobe (business blazer paired with pajama bottoms so the Zoom calls participants will be none the wiser). As for Ejiofor, you can feel his desperation as a man struggling to find his worth, resorting to making homemade bread just to feel useful.
They’re an odd couple on paper, but the pair are brilliant at trading barbs. In one scene, they both end up in a “confession avalanche,” trying to one-up each other on secrets and lies. They’re a great action couple too, discussing the heist and justifying that they can screw over capitalism, help the NHS (they’ll give a portion of their steal to the NHS), and break free from their soul-sucking jobs.
Hathaway and Ejiofor are an exciting pairing as a couple on the brink.
Screenwriter Steven Knight, known for grittier fare like Peaky Blinders and Taboo, perfectly captures the acidic humor that can be derived from the pandemic. There are awkward Zoom calls aplenty, a cathartic scene of clapping and banging pots and pans for essential workers, and the valiant quests to get groceries and coveted items like toilet paper. Knight proves he can flex his comedy and drama skills in the same script, which is a delight. Sure, the heist scene is tense, but so is pandemic cohabitation 24/7 with no end in sight.
Helming Knight’s script is Liman, who captures these two-hander scenes with a handheld camera, bottling these moments with intimate precision. He follows them as they pace around their flat, not afraid to linger on their faces after some fiery monologues from Knight’s script. Liman is no stranger to action, with a filmography including The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (which would be a suitable companion film to Locked Down). The heist goes down with similarly slick stylings from his action fare, cameras gliding down the hallways to capture each element of the action.
As slick as the heist is, Locked Down shines in the moments between chases, where Linda and Paxton examine their relationship and how they got lost along the way. If you can’t be brutally honest during a pandemic, then when can you? That brutal honesty paves the way for some solid jokes such as Paxton wanting to bake bread and Linda lambasting him because it will be inedible. Locked Down feels like a return to Liman’s early filmmaking days, harkening back to comedic character studies like Swingers and Go.
Impressively, Locked Down was filmed in London during the fall of 2020 under strict COVID protocols, which opens up bigger questions about how to sell drama during such a harrowing period in our real lives. Acting around masks is no joke either (you see a lot of ‘smizing’), and the cast do their best to work around these limitations to their instrument. Locked Down also locks in some impressive cameos, most of which pop-up in video calls between characters.
The climax, the heist of the diamond, was filmed in Harrods, an impressive feat pulled off by Liman and Knight, who approached the iconic department store with the script and asked for their blessing to film inside. It also serves as a cultural timestamp during the pandemic, a snapshot of the once-bustling London shuddered to a standstill.
Locked Down is a fun escapist flick for the pandemic, examining life under quarantine, and the reflections that come with living during an era of incredible uncertainty. Sure, it’s cathartic to think we’re all one step away from getting out of our humdrum lives. But not all of us can walk into Harrod’s and steal a diamond. Instead, Locked Down’s true purpose is to remind us of what we have, asking us to take pleasure in the little things ( having flour to bake bread, cheap wine) and to not lose ourselves along the way. In this respect, as pandemic-set media goes, Locked Down puts its limitations to inventive use.
Locked Down premieres on HBO Max January 14th.